QP Live: Trudeau distracts, Fantino deflects

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by Nick Taylor-Vaisey

Justin Trudeau sure knows how to steal a news cycle. This morning, the Liberal leader surprised everyone in Ottawa, a relatively rare moment in a usually predictable political bubble. Trudeau booted his entire team of senators from the Liberal caucus. Why? To do his part to rid the Senate of the smelly patronage that has so infested the institution for as long as anyone can remember. Most political leaders talk a lot about cleaning up the Senate, including the Prime Minister, and most, including the Prime Minister, stumble along the way. Trudeau claims to have no interest in stumbling.

Conservatives and New Democrats howled. Pierre Poilievre, the Minister for Democratic reform, says Trudeau’s simply cleaning house in advance of a scathing auditor general’s report into Senate expenses. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair made the same speculative claim. He couldn’t help but mention that the NDP had the idea of removing partisanship from the Senate last October—and the Liberals went and voted against the proposal, going so far as to call it unconstitutional!

So, among these weeds, where is the truth? Is Trudeau pre-emptively dodging the wrath of an auditor general? Is he a hypocrite? Is he throwing his senators under the bus? Is he democracy’s latest saint? John Geddes considers the questions.

For their part, Liberals are pleased with their newly halved caucus. MPs are calling it true leadership. Senators are saying they’ve been set free and can now more effectively serve the country, though Paul Wells wonders about the permanence of this new arrangement and how senators really feel. Whatever you believe, and however this turns out for the Liberals, the party in the corner of the Commons has proven once again that the bubble’s attention is theirs for the taking. Even if no one knows what any of it means.

Meanwhile, veterans’ groups are becoming Julian Fantino’s worst nightmare. The veterans’ affairs minister is under fire for his treatment of those who served in uniform. Yesterday, he skipped a meeting with a bunch of veterans. Now, they want him fired. So does Mulcair. If today’s big shock wears off, and anyone tunes into Question Period, they’ll witness a flustered Fantino.

Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period, when MPs trade barbs and take names for 45 minutes every day. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer, which we produced with J-Source. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We tell you who to watch, we stream it live, and we liveblog all the action. The whole thing only matters if you participate. Chime in on Twitter with #QP.

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Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino will feel the heat. As he defends the closure of eight veterans’ affairs offices across Canada, Fantino’s fighting off angry veterans’ groups. The opposition backs the vets, and expect plenty of pressure in the Commons.

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QP Live: Trudeau distracts, Fantino deflects

  1. Polievre’s job is to sling mud and hope some of it sticks. He knows nothing about the AG report — and I saw the AG’s response on Twitter to journos asking about that. It was unequivocal: no leaks, and nobody knows what’s in the report. Could Liberal senators have somehow suggested they may have abused their expense accounts? I suppose that is possible, but even if that proves to be true, no matter how you slice it, Justin Trudeau did the right thing by cutting them out of caucus. Even if it somehow benefits the party, it will still also benefit Canadians.

    • Prime Minister also said that Trudeau does not want an elected senate which is not true since he stated clearly several times he wants senators to be elected .

      • We all know our Prime Minister doesn’t recognize truth. He’s allergic to it.

    • If one party leader can decide to do this unilaterally, what’s to prevent him or his successor from doing the opposite once in power? Plans for structural reform based on the word of someone not in government that he will be a better person once in office have proven unreliable historically, regardless of party.

  2. I feel bad for Fantino. People should realize that he is nothing more than a trained seal who does whatever his master tells him to do. The PMO is running the show, government ministers and backbenchers are little more than willing slaves.

    • Which makes him part of the problem. If he wants to be a trained seal repeating conservative talking points then I have no sympathy for him

  3. You know what Trudeau has done today, he broke his cheery. He is starting to show he is becoming a true leader, with vision and guts, you may not like it, but it took guts. Every time he talks about something, he does it, and always shows tangible results, not just talk the walk, but walk the walk.

    • Absolutely ‘boldness be my friend’ – this is the true Justin shining through and with this type of movement no wonder he is gaining ground (like the Prime Minister when he was ‘coming up’). Someone said he was a formidable person as human being perhaps a while ago and he must have known him better than most of us. This is the type of thinking that we need with the head.

  4. What Trudeau has shown today is that he is a grandstander, seeking his 15 minutes of fame just like his father. He didn’t sit down and discuss the changes as a way to improve the Senate for all Canadians, he didn’t sit down with his party and discuss ways to improve the Senate, he didn’t tell Canadians he was planning on doing this as a show of good faith to reorganize the Senate. Instead he springs it on everyone as a fait accompli and tries to be the hero/savior of the Senate. He isn’t a team player, he doesn’t have Canadian’s best interests at heart, he isn’t interested in good politics, he just wants fame.

    • His father’s ’15 minutes of fame’ changed the country.

      What Justin did is internal party business, and nothing to do with you.

    • He has had fame his whole life. He’s the leader, so guess what? He gets to lead. And you spelled “shiny” wrong too.

    • The proof of the pudding is 3 Liberal Senators were on board immediately including Cowan the leader of the former Liberals in the Senate who is appears very fair and balanced (lot of wisdom) – they were astounded by his move – it is really earth shaking – he did something in Government which only the governing party can accomplish.

  5. I have no problem with an independent senate. Better would be abolish the anachronism. Who needs an upper house to look over the shoulder of the commons. Maybe in the old days of Lords in England and a division of the aristocracy from an ordinary working class stiff, there was a deemed need for a “house of Lords”. Lets just dump the last smell of the senate and be done with it forever. It seems to me that is the direction even the PM wanted but settled for an elected senate as a primary step. Just dump it now.

    • Must be a Conservative. Otherwise, why would you want Harper to control more than he already does?

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